Security Check: Anastasia Leng has been a wandering nomad all her life, having lived in Bahrain, Vietnam, Hungary, Russia, France, England, and the US. She currently resides in New York City and is the Founder of Hatch, an online ecommerce site for the maker generation.
What’s your historical London and New York connection?
My family moved to the States when I was 14 and we initially settled in New York, though it wasn’t long until my parents opted for something slightly more serene and relocated to the suburbs. After I graduated from university and spent 2 years working for Google in San Francisco, I moved to London, initially just for 8 months. 8 months turned into 4.5 years and London became home. When I finally left Google in August 2012 to start my own company, I moved back to New York City and am finally getting that Manhattan-in-your-20’s experience.
Describe your experience in New York as a Londoner.
Before moving to London, I was warned that the reverse culture shock of coming home is worse than the culture shock of moving to London, and this is something I’ve definitely found to be true. Being a Londoner-at-heart in New York definitely has its moments of acclimation: I miss the accents, people letting you get off the subway before they pile on, the grey yet always mild weather, and the cleanliness and relative quiet of the city.
That said, New York has a palatable energy around it that makes you feel that there’s no option but success here — succeeding in New York feels like a test you must pass to get to that next level, whatever it is. Everyone you meet here is chasing a goal and I have yet to be anywhere that feels more contagiously ambitious than New York City.
How can New York and London better engage with each other?
Recognize that the two cities, and its residents, are different. It’s easy to assume that because people speak English in both places, they operate by the same unwritten and informal rules (at least I made that assumption when I first moved to London). Londoners, upon first impression, seem less welcoming and outwardly friendly than what New Yorkers might be used to, but that’s definitely not the case if you persevere a bit.
The tech scene in both cities, while always growing, is tight-knit and accepting enough that you can truly reach out to most people and get a response. Take advantage of that. Every person you meet opens up other doors and possibilities, and it’s that kind of serendipity, regardless of which side of the pond it’s on, that’ll ultimately take you to that place you’re trying to go.
Favorite NYC secret spot: I know I’m very biased, but my favorite NYC spot is my mom’s restaurant, the Russian Vodka Room, in midtown Manhattan. There’s live piano music, over 350 different kinds of vodka, plus delicious hearty Russian food.
Favorite London secret spot: For food, definitely Rochelle Canteen. You’d never know there was a restaurant there unless you were looking for it and it feels like you’re going through a secret garden just to get there. For drinks, my favorite pub is the Ladbroke Arms over in Notting Hill — it’s the quintessential British Pub, with the added bonus of a small beautiful garden outside that makes drinking that Pimms Cup on a rare sunny day all the more enjoyable.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? London. Once you get past the crap weather and the 11 p.m. closing time, London is very easy to fall in love with. From beautiful architecture around every corner, the ability to be anywhere in Europe within 3 hours, the emphasis on living life beyond work, and the loving self-deprecating nature of the English, I’d be happy to call London home again anytime. My favorite thing about the English (and something that I miss in NYC) is their ability to get through a whole meal with you without once asking you what you do for a living.
In flight entertainment:
What’s playing in your headphones right now? Soundtrack to Vicky, Christina, Barcelona.
And what are you currently reading? I just started These Days by Jack Cheng, a novel set out to debunk the myths associated with startup life. I just finished Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton, a great and very quick read about the drama-fueled conception and evolution of Twitter.
From the 3460 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + LONDON